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Covid-19 curbs tightened in Bangkok; first death in 2 months reported

Thailand sees first Covid-related death in two months amid biggest outbreak yet

BANGKOK: Thailand announced its first coronavirus death in nearly two months and tightened restrictions on entertainment businesses in its capital yesterday, in a bid to contain an outbreak that has reached more than half of the country's provinces.

The authorities confirmed 144 cases yesterday as new clusters emerged stemming from its biggest outbreak yet, prompting a ban in Bangkok on betting businesses and midnight closures for its bars, nightclubs and music venues until Jan 4.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he was undergoing two weeks of quarantine after exposure to an infected provincial governor, while House Speaker Chuan Leekpai asked 29 parliamentary employees to seek tests after meeting a person who contracted the virus.

Thailand, the first country outside of China to report a coronavirus infection, has recorded just 6,285 cases and 61 deaths, having brought earlier outbreaks under control.

Its success has been attributed to tight restrictions on inbound travel and swift testing and contact tracing.

Bangkok's tighter measures follow similar regulations in some of the 43 provinces with cases since a big outbreak was discovered 11 days ago among migrant workers at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, a province near the capital.

A cluster has been found in the eastern province of Rayong linked to a gambling den, with 92 infections in three days and one death, a 45-year-old man.

A spokesman for the Bangkok authorities, Mr Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, said a field hospital would also be set up in the capital and the restrictions reviewed next week.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte's security team and some Cabinet ministers have already received China's Sinopharm vaccine, officials said yesterday, despite an absence of regulatory approval that the country's Health Ministry said was vital to ensure safety.

Mr Duterte has not been vaccinated, his spokesman said.

The Health Ministry in a statement said all vaccines must first be evaluated by experts, and "only vaccines which have been approved and found to be safe should be administered".

Food and Drug Administration head Rolando Enrique Domingo said Philippine regulators have yet to approve any Covid-19 vaccine, making any importation, distribution and sale of one illegal.

Dr Domingo warned the public that unapproved vaccines would expose them to "all sorts of dangers", and told CNN Philippines that side effects were possible "especially if you don't know how these things have been handled".

So far, only Pfizer has applied for emergency use approval of its Covid-19 vaccine in the Philippines, while Sinovac, Gamaleya, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen and Clover's late-stage trial applications have yet to be approved.

In a separate development, Malaysia has declared all of Selangor a red zone. The state recorded 697 cases yesterday.

Malaysia recorded 1,594 cases, taking the total to 106,690. There were three deaths, taking the toll to 455. - REUTERS, THE STAR, AFP

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